Jonathan Gray, Rockies
You'd think Jonathan Gray couldn't have asked anything more of himself in his debut season.
You'd be wrong.
The third overall pick in this year's Draft -- and the Rockies' top prospect -- struck out 51 and walked eight over 37 1/3 innings across two levels. He went 4-0 with a 0.75 ERA in the California League, where untested pitchers often look like they're throwing batting practice.
A standout at the University of Oklahoma, Gray was twice named Cal League Pitcher of the Week after compiling a 4.05 ERA in four starts with Rookie-level Grand Junction in the Pioneer League. Despite pitching in hitters' havens, he did not allow a home run.
So what's left on his to-do list?
"I still want to work on using my changeup more in games," Gray said. "I only threw it four or five times [in my last start]. I got a couple misses and a foul ball."
Gray can light up radar guns with a 99 mph fastball but hopes to reach the point where he's comfortable going to his off-speed stuff more often.
"I'd like to use [my changeup] about 15 times [a start]," he said.
Based on the success he had in his first crack at pro ball, there's no telling what could happen if he builds confidence in his secondary pitches.
Kohl Stewart, Twins
The Twins, meanwhile, had to like what they saw from their top pick. Kohl Stewart, drafted fourth overall out of St. Pius X High School in Houston and away from a commitment to play quarterback at Texas A&M, didn't pitch much in his pro debut, but he pitched well. The 19-year-old right-hander struck out 16 and allowed seven runs -- three earned -- over 16 innings in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, then fanned eight over four scoreless frames in the Appalachian League.
"The biggest thing -- you don't get to see stuff too much since we only saw him for one start -- but we saw his competitive nature," Elizabethton pitching coach Henry Bonilla said of the organization's fourth-ranked prospect. "You could see how he was competing with the other kids in workouts and in bullpen sessions. Part of that probably comes from his football background.
"He definitely has a live fastball. He throws pretty hard. Guys who are just 18-19 out of high school don't have much feel for their stuff, so he's just a thrower right now. He does have some feel. And he definitely has a live fastball."
Mark Appel, Astros
Mark Appel, who was this year's No. 1 overall pick and already is MLB.com's 24th overall prospect, didn't disappoint but didn't end up pitching all that much. The Astros shut down the Stanford product after he went 3-1 with a 3.79 ERA between short-season Tri-City and Class A Quad Cities. Including his time with the Cardinal, the 22-year-old right-hander threw 144 1/3 innings this year.
"Overall, I think it was a very successful introduction to pro ball," Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow told the Houston Chronicle. "In the past, most of the top picks weren't signed until August. Players are signing sooner and getting out sooner, so you have to be very careful."
Appel allowed two runs over his final 10 innings and, after his penultimate outing, told MiLB.com he did not feel fatigued.
"I feel like I've got 15 more starts [in me]," he said, "so it's not my call to call it quits or say when I'm done."
Chris Anderson, Dodgers
Chris Anderson, whom the Dodgers plucked from Jacksonville University with the 18th overall pick, needed only 46 innings in the Class A Midwest League to register his first 50 strikeouts as a pro. He went 3-0 with a 1.96 ERA, while second-round pick Tom Windle was 5-1 with a 2.86 ERA and 51 strikeouts in 53 2/3 innings on the same Great Lakes staff. The teammates pitched against one another in high school.
Anderson is ranked seventh among Dodgers prospects, two spots ahead of Windle.
Aaron Blair, D-backs
Aaron Blair -- the D-backs' first-round pick and No. 16 prospect -- was 1-3 between short-season Hillsboro and Class A South Bend, combining for a 3.14 ERA.
A trio of this year's draftees showed such command that they earned spots in the prospect-laden Arizona Fall League.
Michael Lorenzen, Reds
Michael Lorenzen worked his way through four levels after being drafted 38th overall and becoming the Reds' No. 6 prospect. He reached the Double-A Southern League, where he was unscored upon in four of seven relief appearances before joining Glendale.
Corey Knebel, Tigers
Mesa has University of Texas product Corey Knebel, who made 31 appearances out of the bullpen for Class A West Michigan. Drafted one spot after Lorenzen, he went 2-1 with a 0.87 ERA, 15 saves and 41 strikeouts in 31 innings, climbing to No. 15 among Tigers prospects.
Colby Suggs, Marlins
Marlins second-rounder Colby Suggs is Lorenzen's AFL teammate after posting a 3.29 ERA in 22 relief outings with the GCL Marlins, short-season Jamestown and Class A Advanced Jupiter.